With the lease for St. Thomas’s Red Point Wastewater Treatment Facility up for renewal, V.I. Port Authority board members discussed on Thursday demands from the Federal Aviation Administration to add special conditions to the lease agreement that would levy fines for the V.I. Waste Management Authority’s inability to close the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix.
After about an hour of discussion, board members approved the conditions, which hinge upon the VIWMA “capping and sealing” the landfill by June 30, 2020.
According to VIPA Executive Director Carlton Dowe, the VIWMA’s original consent decree with the federal government specified that the landfill by closed by 2016 and, since the agency missed the date, they would have to pay $31,000 in penalties, along with increased rent if they want the St. Thomas facility renewed – which sits on Port Authority land behind the Cyril E. King Airport.
Board members meeting on St. Thomas said they were torn by the conditions, since the VIWMA is already low on money and because any fines and penalties that have to be paid would come from the government’s General Fund.
“It seems like we are pressuring Waste Management,” said Attorney General Claude Walker, who sits on the VIPA board. “We know they have to find an alternative but it would be nice to hear from them about whether they can meet these special conditions. At the end of the day, it’s us who has to pay for all of this.”
At a Public Finance Authority board meeting last week, Gov. Kenneth Mapp said he would be submitting bills to the Legislature to fund the VIWMA: $10 million that would help cover some outstanding payments to vendors and another $20 million that Dowe said Thursday is meant to facilitate the closure of the Anguilla landfill.
If the money is coming, it would not be a good idea to jeopardize millions of dollars in federal discretionary funds that the FAA could begin to withhold if the lease were renewed without the special conditions, Dowe said.
Dowe said FAA and VIWMA representatives met about a month ago to discuss the terms.
“This is a grave situation for the government and also for the Port Authority,” Dowe said. “Grave because Waste Management can’t shut up that landfill tomorrow and walk away. But the FAA gave WMA specific dates and times to do it, and that didn’t happen, so that’s why you’re hearing about these special conditions.”
Dowe added after the meeting that FAA discretionary funds are being put toward the ongoing renovations at St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
“Again, this issue with the landfill is nothing new,” Dowe said. “This is just reinforcing some of the same agreements that were there previously and what the Port wants to do is continue to try to develop long lasting relationships, like the one with the FAA.”
“We’re doing a $4 million project at the airport on St. Croix and are about to start another $3.5 million one, some of which is being covered by discretionary funds. If we’re not in good standing, the FAA could withhold the money, and we don’t want that to happen,” Dowe said.
If the 2020 date is not met, the VIWMA would also have to pay $1,000 a day for up to 90 days, according to the special conditions.
A bid proposal from V.I. Paving for the $3.5 million airport project, which would rehab Rohlsen’s runway and taxiway alpha – including patching, grooving and adding new pavement markings – was also approved Thursday.